It's been a season like no other and a transfer window like no other, with the pandemic throwing the market way off kilter.
Like with the racing, signings and extensions have largely been delayed, and plenty of pros still find themselves without contracts for 2021. However, the majority of WorldTour teams have now firmed up their rosters for next year.
We've delved into the ins and outs at each of the 19 WorldTour teams, taking a look at who has dealt themselves a stronger or weaker hand.
In this first installment, we take a look at a new era at AG2R Citroën, weathering the storm at Astana-Premier Tech and Bahrain Victorious, more German talent at Bora, support for Guillaume Martin at Cofidis, and of course Mark Cavendish at Deceuninck-QuickStep.
Overview: A huge shift for the French team, who say au revoir to Bardet and go full-gas for the Classics
In: Lilian Calmejane (Total Direct Energie), Stan Dewulf (Lotto Soudal), Anthony Jullien (neo-pro), Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Ben O'Connor (NTT Pro Cycling), Marc Sarreau (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Schär (CCC Team), Damien Touzé (Cofidis), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC Team), Gijs Van Hoecke (CCC Team), Nicolas Prodhomme (neo-pro)
Out: Romain Bardet (Team Sunweb), Pierre Latour (Total Direct Energie), Alexandre Geniez (Total Direct Energie), Pierre Latour (Total Direct Energie), Clement Chevrier (retires), Axel Domont (retires), Quentin Jauregui (B&B Hotels), Alexis Vuilliermoz (Total Direct Energie), Harry Tanfield (Qhubeka Assos), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix)
Extended: Oliver Naesen, Larry Warbasse, Mikaël Chérel, Ben Gastauer, Benoît Cosnefroy, Dorian Godon, Aurélien Paret-Peintre, Geoffroy Bouchard, Jaakko Hanninen, Andrea Vendrame, Mathias Frank, Nans Peters.
Analysis: This is the end of an era for Vincent Lavenu’s long-running team. Romain Bardet came up through the team’s development set-up and twice finished on the podium at the Tour de France during his nine years as a pro. He was seen as the answer to France’s long wait for a home Tour winner and the team was structured around him, his every demand catered to. However, things have changed in the last couple of years, and Bardet has decided to leave what once looked like his forever home to a breath of fresh air.
His departure – along with that of Latour – doesn’t exactly leave AG2R in the lurch, but it’s a big change of direction. It’s actually one that took root four years ago when they signed Oliver Naesen, seeing the Classics as a simple way to pick up UCI points. Naesen was instructed to collect top-10s in the spring but when he showed he was capable of more than that, they started building around the Belgian, who was handed a bumper new deal at a time most teams were imposing pay cuts. The same goes for Cosnefroy, who was seen as vital to the team's future without Bardet and Latour.
The increased funds from Citroën allowed AG2R to go after Van Avermaet and Jungels, so Naesen is no longer sole leader in a cobbled Classics core to which Schär, Van Hoecke, Dewulf, Calmejane, and Touzé have also been added. Overkill? Landing a big Classic would justify the investment but if not, you fear they’re a little short elsewhere. There’s no direct replacement in the stage racing department, even if Jungels has Grand Tour top 10s to his name. Balancing his Classics and Grand Tour focuses is a key task, as shown by his lacklustre season in 2020.
Calmejane and sprinter Sarreau are solid signings who can go some way to filling the void left by Bardet and Latour, in the sense they can shine on home soil. When it comes to a replacement for Bardet, Clément Champoussin looks like he’s being lined up and while his breakthrough may not be far away, AG2R are throwing the kitchen sink at the Classics in the meantime.
Overview: López leaves but Lutsenko the priority as Kazakhstani team survive the pandemic
In: Samuele Battistella, Matteo Sobrero, Stefan De Bod (all from NTT Pro Cycling), Ben Perry (Israel Cycling Academy), Andrea Piccolo (neo-pro), Javier Romo (neo-pro), Yevgeniy Fedorov (neo-pro), Gleb Brussenskiy (neo-pro).
Out: Miguel Angel López (Movistar)
Extended: Alexey Lutsenko, Yevgeniy Gidich, Dmitriy Gruzdev, Yuriy Natarov, Nikita Stalnov and Artyom Zakharov, Vadim Pronskiy, Gorka Izagirre, Ion Izagirre, Manuele Boaro, Jonas Gregaard, Davide Martinelli, Rodrigo Contreras
Analysis: Financial problems relating to the oil and gas industries in Kazakhstan put the team under serious pressure during the pandemic, and transfer activity was frozen for much of the year as the team simply looked to stay afloat. Keeping hold of Lutsenko would be a key bit of business for most teams, given his quality, but his importance to Astana, as the leading Kazakh rider in the world, is almost immeasurable. That was always the number one priority.
Still, there was a price to pay and having to let Lopez go due to budget constraints leaves the team without a true Grand Tour leader. Jakob Fuglsang is still firing on many cylinders but not over three weeks, while Alexandr Vlasov had a remarkable first WorldTour season but is still relatively inexperienced.
There were rumours of Ineos swooping for the Russian before the end of his contract, but seeing that off was key to next year’s results sheet, as were the extensions of the dependable Izaguirre brothers. Vinokourov picked off a few bargains while it looked like NTT were going under, but the main focus has been on the Kazakhstani contingent, with six extensions and two new signings from the home nation.
Overview: Teuns extension and Haig signing two good bits of business among financial and management upheaval
In: Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott)
Out: Enrico Battaglin (Bardiani-CSF), Ivan García Cortina (Movistar), Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Extended: Dylan Teuns, Yukiya Arashiro, Phil Bauhaus, Chun-Kai Feng, Heinrich Haussler, Mark Padun, Hermann Pernsteiner, Marcel Sieberg, Jan Tratnik, Stephen Williams
Analysis: Another team who have been best by financial problems, the Bahrain team head into 2021 without McLaren, who only lasted a year. Budget constraints have made for a quiet transfer window, and, coupled with the shock departure of Rod Ellingworth after just a year in charge, it’s hard to decipher much of a strategy.
As well as the high-profile transfer of Cavendish, they’re losing a real talent in Ivan García Cortina, who’s been starting to shine in Classics and sprints, but there’s similar quality incoming in the form of Haig, who can be used as a luxury domestique for Mikel Landa but equally could be tasked with stepping up and leading the line himself in certain races.
That’s the only acquisition so far, with the main concern firming up a roster for next year, which they did with the announcement of nine extensions last month. A crucial bit of business had already been done by then in getting Teuns to re-sign, despite interest from a number of teams.
Overview: More investment in German talent as reliance on Sagan continues to fall
In: Giovanni Aleotti (neo-pro), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Jordi Meeus (neo-pro), Nils Politt (Israel Start-Up Nation), Matthew Walls (neo-pro), Frederik Wandahl (neo-pro), Ben Zwiehoff (neo-pro)
Out: Oscar Gatto (retires), Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates), Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar Team), Jempy Drucker (Cofidis)
Extended: Max Schachmann, Cesare Benedetti, Lukas Postlberger, Matteo Fabbro
Analysis: Since jumping up to the WorldTour on the back of Peter Sagan in 2017, the German team have quietly gone about building a roster packed with quality and able to compete on all fronts.
Sagan’s win rate has diminished dramatically in the last couple of years but the team’s has gone the other way, signalling that they no longer revolves around the three-time world champion. His contract is up at the end of next year, and the signing of Politt - the young German Classics rider who was second at Paris-Roubaix in 2019 - would suggest Bora are already thinking about life after Sagan.
Politt completes the German circle, joining Ackermann, Buchmann, Kamna, and Schachmann in covering pretty much all bases. The latter perhaps represented Bora’s biggest piece of business, as they fought off interest from other teams to retain his services.
That he was given a four-year contract underlines the importance of the 26-year-old, who can seemingly do it all. Elsewhere, there’s a sort of like-for-like replacement in terms of secondary GC rider, as Kelderman comes in for Majka, while foundations for the future continue to be laid with the arrival of five neo-pros.
Overview: French team build around Guillaume Martin
In: Tom Bohli (UAE Team Emirates), Andre Carvalho (Hagens Berman-Axeon), Thomas Champion (neo-pro), Rubén Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Simon Geschke (CCC Team), Rémy Rochas (Nippo-Delko), Szymon Sajnok (CCC Team), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Jempy Drucker (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Out: Cyril Lemoine (B&B Hotels), Luis Angel Mate (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Damien Touzé (AG2R La Mondiale), Dimitri Claeys (Qhubeka Assos)
Extended: Anthony Perez, Victor Lafay, Emmanuel Morin, Pierre-Luc Périchon
Analysis: There are no marquee signings like when Elia Viviani accompanied the French team’s rise to the WorldTour, but Cofidis have strengthened for their second campaign in the top tier. Bohli and Drucker add World-Tour level horsepower, Wallays is a solid breakaway specialist, and Carvalho is a talented young all-rounder.
However, the most important signings are those of Geschke and Fernández, both of whom will be key support riders for Guillaume Martin, who showed enough in his first season to be deemed worth building a squad around. Geshcke has plenty of experience, with a Tour de France stage win a supporting role in Tom Dumoulin’s 2017 Giro d’Italia victory, and despite his 34 years of age, he’s just had one of his best seasons.
Fernández, meanwhile, returns to the WorldTour after a year at Euskaltel. His career never really got started in the way you’d expect from a Tour de l’Avenir winner but he had some decent results this year and you sense there is still potential to be tapped.
Cofidis clearly sense potential in Martin, and while they’ll have to arrest Viviani’s slump to really improve their fortunes in 2021, the Frenchman has been backed in this window.
Overview: Jungels the latest big name allowed to leave as Cavendish headlines a quiet inbox
In: Mauri Vansevenant (neo-pro, as of July 15, 2020), Fausto Masnada (CCC Team, as of August 2020), Josef Cerny (CCC Team), Mark Cavendish (Bahrain McLaren).
Out: Bob Jungels (AG2R La Mondiale)
Extended: Yves Lampaert, Mikkel Honoré, Dries Devenyns, Iljo Keisse
Analysis: It seems that every year Patrick Lefevere is forced to let one of his superstars go. Gilbert, Kittel, Gaviria, Viviani have all moved on in recent years and this time it’s the turn of Jungels. It also seems that every year Deceuninck-QuickStep seem to cope just fine without those superstars, and you also feel this is the case here.
Lefevere would ideally have liked to keep hold of him, but you can see why he didn’t want to break the bank to do so. The team are already well-stocked enough in the Classics – both cobbled and Ardennes – to cope without him, while the stage racing contingent has been taken over by the emerging Remco Evenepoel and João Almeida.
Elsewhere, it has been a largely quiet transfer window, until this weekend, and the announcement of Mark Cavendish. Lefevere spoke of a ‘risk’, but when you consider Cavendish brought in a sponsor to cover his wages and is effectively a free rider, it's a no-brainer.
There is still a task in handling the narrative surrounding the 30-time Tour stage winner better than Bahrain McLaren did, but even if he doesn’t return to winning ways, Cavendish adds experience exposure for sponsors. Lefevere has referenced the positive public reaction to the signing so in some ways it’s already a success and if Cavendish were to resurrect his career it would just be a fairytale bonus.
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